Four arrested over huge Ecstasy haul

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 December, 2004, 12:00am

Customs discovered drug in post and followed the couriers

Customs officers have arrested four suspects after seizing a haul of Ecstasy valued at $11 million, the city's biggest seizure of the drug.

The size of the haul - about 62,700 pills - surpassed the total number of Ecstasy tablets seized by the Customs Department in the whole of last year, officials said.

The traffickers tried to sneak the pills into Hong Kong by sending them in a large package by express postal delivery from Belgium.

However, they did little to conceal the drugs, which were clearly visible when officials X-rayed the package.

After discovering the haul on Tuesday, officers kept the package under surveillance to identify the individuals behind the smuggling attempt. On Wednesday, they followed two couriers who collected the drugs.

The officers later arrested the couriers along with two other men who had instructed them where to collect and deliver the package.

The four were aged between 23 and 34.

The head of the Customs Drug Investigation Bureau, Ben Leung Lun-cheung, said one of those arrested was believed to be a senior member of a drug syndicate.

Follow-up investigations are continuing, he said, and information on the case has been forwarded to authorities in Belgium in an attempt to trace other gang members in Europe.

The package was sent via Great Britain and Switzerland.

Mr Leung said he suspected an international syndicate was behind the smuggling attempt.

He said they were probably hoping to take advantage of the busy Christmas period.

'It's likely that they were trying to sneak the package in during a period where passengers and goods traffic are high,' he said.

He said the package was smuggled into Hong Kong for big profits driven by a surge in demand over the Christmas and New Year party period.

The high-quality drug from Belgium would fetch about $180 per tablet, compared with $50 to $100 for pills of a lower grade made on the mainland or in Southeast Asia, he said.

Mr Leung said the tablets were intended for sale at upmarket entertainment venues throughout the city.

After uncovering the haul, customs officers decided to let the package enter Hong Kong to trace the local masterminds behind the smuggling attempt.

Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong yesterday praised the efforts of the customs officers involved in the case.

'The job was well done and the operation highly successful,' he said.

'The recent major drug seizures demonstrate the professionalism and competency of our customs colleagues in combatting the trafficking of dangerous drugs.'